With the Covid pandemic, many millions of Americans have begun to work remotely and replace face-to-face meetings with Zoom or other video teleconferencing platforms. This replacement of in-person meetings with video teleconferencing extends to divorce mediation, and even the uncontested divorce hearings with a judge that finalize your divorce.
Online divorce mediation in Massachusetts works much the same as in-person divorce mediation. The mediator helps you to come to decisions on the big three issues—parenting plan, division of property, and support (alimony or child support)—as well as any other details relevant to the unwinding of your marriage. The mediator then prepares the separation agreement (divorce agreement) and all other court documents for you. These documents can be emailed or postal mailed to you for review and signature. In some jurisdictions they can be signed, and even notarized, online. They can then be postal mailed to the court, or, in some jurisdictions, electronically filed. In Massachusetts, during Covid, all uncontested divorce hearings with the judge are being conducted over Zoom.
Advantages of Online Mediation Over Zoom
With mediation over Zoom, your next mediation meeting is as close as your computer or smartphone, whether you are at home, at work, or even travelling. You and your spouse can be in the same room on one computer, or you can be on the opposite sides of the earth. We all see each other and can talk in real time.
Scheduling in-person mediations meetings is difficult for many people because they cannot leave work during the day or they have childcare responsibilities at home. Finding a time for an in-person mediation session that fits the availability of the mediator and the work and parenting responsibilities of both parents is difficult. Because a Zoom meeting requires no travel time and you can be physically present at your job or home with children, it is much easier to schedule.
Electronic Document Exchange
Because it is so easy to display documents, all parties can see court documents and the separation agreement that the mediator is preparing at the same time that everyone can see each other. Everyone can see, and agree to, the wording or changes in wording in a document.
Documents that are needed for filling out court documents, e.g., W2's or paystubs, are often more accessible for couples if they are logged into their own computer or at home where they might be able to retrieve paper documents. Documents can be shown live over video or transmitted instantly through the Zoom chat function or via email or text messaging.
Couples who are experiencing anger or intense emotion may find it easier to meet over Zoom, rather than in person. Zoom gives them a little bit of a remove from the immediacy of the emotions and allows them to make more progress on the practical issues involved in reaching an agreement.
Mediation via teleconference allows people to participate from an environment that is less formal and may feel less high-stakes than a mediator's office, and it also allows for easier cooling off periods. When a couple come to an in-person mediation meeting, high emotions can result in one person storming out and driving away. On Zoom, it is much easier to take breaks. A person can step away from the meeting for 5 or 10 minutes and then resume without drama.
Couples are not limited in their choice of mediators
A couple can work with a mediator anywhere in the state to reach an agreement and complete all court forms. Divorce is governed by state law, so the exact same divorce forms are used by all courts and locations in Massachusetts. A couple is not limited to mediators who happen to be within a 30 minute drive. Couples living in a city can thus take advantage of the lower attorney and mediator costs that are charged outside of metropolitan areas, and couples in rural areas can avail themselves of expertise that is sometimes only found in cities.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Attorney Julia Rueschemeyer specializes in Massachusetts divorce mediation and Massachusetts QDRO and DRO preparation.
Attorney Julia Rueschemeyer can be contacted by phone at (413) 253-7484 or or Visit Web Site